I finally feel like myself again

It happens every year.  The earth passes perihelion, the point in its orbit where it is closest to the sun.  It reaches this point, where it is about 91 million miles away from the sun, in January. It then glides along at about 70,000 mph towards the equinox which actually takes it a few million miles further from the sun.  Here the earth’s tilt allows it to face the sun at an angle that magnifies its light on the northern hemisphere.  This brings longer days and warmer weather, and the transition from winter to Spring.  It happens every year. 

Meteorological Spring began March 1 and Astrological Spring started March 20.  Here on earth is was still snowing on tax day,  April 15.  Actually that was delayed too.  It was kind like hearing a funny noise when you start your car in the morning.  Could something be broken? 

But it happened.  Almost instantly.  First the sun came out, then it rained, and all of sudden green grass was popping out of the ground.  Tree branches sprouted buds, flowers began blooming.  Better late than never.

Then on May 6, it was time to start Breaking the Cycle’s  fourth season of mountain bike rides with teens in recovery.  Living life on life’s terms is a staple principle of recovery.  Last Sunday,  life’s terms produced some very comfortable temperatures, partly cloudy skies, and firm dirt with just enough mud to put a smile on your face. 

This year we have some new ride leaders, including a former BTC participant. For the second year, we have a trailer to tow gear and bikes.  This year we have some new bikes from Kona that have more a modern design to provide more capability on the trail for the teens to ride.  The group is trying to learn from past seasons and trying to make the program more engaging and fun for all. 

“This is a great day.  I finally feel like myself again,” was the quote of the day, and probably spoke for all of us.   Could it be that the long dreary winter that makes the new Spring even brighter?  Without the dark times we’ve endured, we wouldn’t have these amazing rides to share.  Every ride is a gift.  And with help some help, it will happen every year.


How about that shadow, Groundhog?!?


39 degrees and rain.  Ich.  It almost makes me miss when it was 0 degrees outside and there was a foot of snow on the ground only a matter of weeks ago.  At least I could bundle up and get outside.  But this weather is just miserable.  It inspires Netflix binging and couch surfing, with a side of junk food and lethargy.  But instead of riding the couch all day, I joined the other Breaking The Cycle ride leaders at HIghlander’s house for our 2018 planning meeting.  Often the BTC meetings include a pre- ride, but yesterday the decision was made to forgo the riding in the interest of saving the soggy trails.   According to some Sciophobiac (fear of shadows) Rodent, Spring is still 6 weeks away, which seems like  an eternity, but there is plenty to do and the time will surely pass by.  So, with the inaugural ride of Breaking the Cycle’s 4th season a few month away, a meeting of the minds was in order to make sure 2018 is the best year for BTC yet. What we may be lacking in mind power, we always more than make up for with spirit.  I’m sure i’m not the only one that left the meeting in better spirits than when I arrived.  

In addition to the spiritual nourishment provided by the fellowship of the experienced crew, there are new faces this year,  including a former Teen rider turned ride leader, which is just about the most exciting thing we have going on so far!   Speaking of ride leaders, we are looking for mountain bikers in recovery to help out with this years trail rides.  If you or someone you know has a year or more  sobriety under their belt and would like to ride along with us as we introduce teens in recovery to the power of mountain biking, please reach out to breakingthecyclemtb@yahoo.com.  We’re also looking for teens who would like to participate so if you know someone who would benefit please contact us also.  In the meantime, we’ll be out there riding and staying sober, and although the official BTC rides won’t start until Spring is underway, and regardless of what that friggin groundhog said, every ride is still a gift, and we’ll be taking in every one we can until then.  And, just for the record, Crash did get a ride in the morning before the meeting so helmets off to him.


It's Just Like Riding a Bike


Sometimes I just don't feel like going out for a bike ride.  One reason could be weather.  Too hot, too cold, or rain.  Sometimes I don’t have time.  There always seems to be something else I need to do.  I have a job, a family, and other interests.  The thing with time though,  is that I have the same 24 hours a day that everyone else does, and I can make time for my rides if I do a little planning.  It’s funny, when I do make the time and get out on my bike, surprisingly I can usually fit the other things in just fine.  

Other times Itake the easy way out and make an excuse for myself and stay home.  I always have the choice.  When I don't go out and ride, I get the instant satisfaction of quieting the voices in my head that nag at me to "Forget   it"  or “Just do it tomorrow”.  Tomorrow comes, and then stressful situations start to bother me more than they need to.   My load doesn't seem to be any lighter than it was the day before, despite my putting off my bike ride for “more important” things.   Generally, when I don’t get that ride in, I don't feel all that great. 

When I do decide to get my butt out there,  I have fun.  Sometimes a tire flats.  Sometimes a derailleur breaks.  Once or twice I've gotten caught in the rain.  I remember many of those days.  I don’t remember any of the times I stayed home instead.  Staying home and vegging out isn’t that memorable.  Every time I go out riding,  I have more fun than if I stayed home as those voices in my head had suggested. After a ride, life’s stresses seem trivial, and I generally feel pretty okay with my place in the world. 

Many times I get going on my ride and feel sluggish at first. My effort is creully rewarded with a blunt burning sensation from my thighs.  My lungs ache, my heart starts to pound, and I question my decision.  But if I keep the pedals moving, that burning will subside, my lungs begin to calibrate, and sweat starts to carry toxins,  stress and worry out from body though my pores.  I feel like a kid who just got a new toy.  Every ride is an abrupt change in perspective.  Rolling down the road on a bike is such a different experience from driving the exact same route.    It forces you into a new perspective which brings with ita different outlook.  Sometimes a different outlook is all you need for that enigmatic problem to seem less insurmountable.

Sometimes the sun shines brilliantly and warms my skin from the clear blue sky above.  Sometimes I clear a new obstacle or trail feature.  Sometimes I'm having so much fun I hoot and holler.  And every day I have a choice.  Do I make time for that ride or not?  I can choose to do what I know is good for my soul or I can choose to do what's easy at the time.  Our minds often favor the short term reward. It's hard to focus on the long term outcome and suspend gratification.  It’s not always easy, but I always have a choice.

It's the same way with my program of recovery.  In the past I used drugs and alcohol to cope with the ups and downs that are inevitable in life.  In addiction, as stress built up,  I would numb myself from feeling it.  That did work for a while.    But that only masked the pain and discomfort for a short time and there was a hefty price to pay in return.  That path took its toll on my life and I don’t wish to follow it anymore.  I choose not to live like that.  But, life still presents challenges.   I can choose to go to meetings and work my program to cope with those challenges the same way I can choose to go ride my bike.  Many times I don't want to do it.  Sometimes it's cold outside, sometimes it’stoo hot.  Sometimes I don't feel like I have time.  Short term wants often appear to outweigh the long term needs.  But much like when I do choose to go for that ride instead of staying home, when I choose to go to a meeting, or call another friend in recovery, or pray,  or meditate, I start to feel good again.  It's not always pretty.  Sometimes I show up looking and feeling pretty ratty.  Sometimes I feel like I want to hide in the back of the room and not talk to anyone.  But when I get my butt in motion, and get past that first step, and the more I participate and remain present, the more strength and endurance I have to face life and everything else seems to fall in place.  Sometimes I choose the short term gain.  I stay home because I'm too busy.  Almost every time I do that I start losing my resilience to face daily stresses and life inevitably becomes overwhelming.  I start to doubt myself and my experience of living suffers.  

When I started in recovery, I wondered why I had to go to meetings and work a program.  As time has gone by, I’ve learned something different.  I don’t have to do anything.  I can choose to use drugs and alcohol and suffer the consequences.  Or, I can choose to abstain.  If I abstain I still have choices.  I can live without a program and be stressed out, anxious, depressed, and lonely.  Or, I can work my program and feel content, useful,  and free.  After all, It’s just like riding a bike.


Keeping It Real

My name is Cheap Horse because my mountain bikes can be described as inexpensive, ancient, made from other bikes or all of the above. I’ve been working far more than I want to lately. Missing the parts of my life that make me, me, including Sunday's BTC ride. I’ve been keeping it real at work this past week. After work I head home and I can’t relax, can’t do chores, can’t even sit down, I am not in a good place. I decide to soothe myself by going for a ride. My cheap steed creaks and squeaks as I make the first climb, an orchestra of used parts. Its chain more like rope, its gears like granddad's old saw blade, shifting this bike requires a lot of finesse and a careful pedal stroke. Focus on the positive, body leaning where it needs to, my bike following its line, all of my extremities participating in shifting, it’s all automatic. After a few hours my head reboots.

Out of water, no light, it’s getting dark, I have no idea where I am in this huge forest, I laugh at myself. Leaning Junky on a tree I sit on a rock, reflect on my thoughts, watching the daylight fade away, waiting. I am very calm now. I resolve to keep it real, the right kind of real. I find gratitude in that in only three months my current work detail will change into a very secure long term job with no Sundays. Suddenly I hear what I’ve been waiting for. In a flash Junky and I are tearing off the trail in a straight line through the brush, briars and all, my adrenaline pumping, my thoughts now at rest, I’m truly thrilled. I thank God for loud motorcycles as I make a beeline for a road. Not much sleep and good and sore from my ride, I roll into work early the next day. I get surprised looks. Working 6 days in a row, lots of hours and the busiest day of the week and I am as cool as a cucumber. Later two coworkers come away from the walls and confront me, “what kind of drugs are you on? Wow.” I say “I don’t do drugs, I mountain bike."

By Cheap Horse

How I Get Over the Big Rocks

Sometimes out on the trail, I come up against a pretty tough section that I'm not sure I can ride.  If I am alone, most times, I'll walk it (hike a bike).  Even though I can clearly see the line to take, I still opt to walk it instead of trying to ride that section.

Now, coming across that very same section when riding with better riders, I will try it and 9 out of 10 times, ride it clean.   What's the difference?  I'm not doing it alone, even though I am the only one on the bike!

Same thing happens with recovery. Even though I am responsible for my own recovery, with help... it's not as hard!

By Stumped

What I've Learned in the Woods

I've always found peace in the woods.  To me, it is the best "church," a great way to recharge as well as a way to find peace during life's turmoil.   Finding a higher power while in nature is, well, just natural!

When I first got sober, quite a few "24 hours" ago, I spent HOURS and HOURS in the woods on my bike or horse.   When riding my mountain bike at different state parks and trailheads, I realized that I can NOT pick a favorite.  Just like in life, much of it depends on what else is going on.  When a really challenging day is closed out with a successful ride on challenging terrain, it fills me up with a sense of accomplishment and courage to take on more.  

When finding myself on a new trail with nice swooping singletrack, no rocks or roots, becoming one with the bike brings me total peace and a smile that will not leave my face.  

Just like riding fast on a new trail, picking the "right line" quickly and committing, is also applied to choices in life.  The first ride I did at a local favorite trailhead was a bloody mess for me.  I was afraid to go back and let fear keep me from some of the best trails around.  With proper preparation and training, support from others, that trail is quickly becoming a "go to" place for me to ride, run and just enjoy. 

So many lessons have been learned in the woods, so many challenges accomplished, friends made and fun had that I can't wait to help share it with others just as it's been shared with me.  Pass It On!

By Stumped

BLING Reveals his favorite local Mountain Bike Trail, and why!

My favorite local MTB trail is The West Hartford Reservoir. 

This is where I first learned to ride 5 short years ago.  Before that, skiing was my outdoor sport of choice.  While skiing in CO 6 years ago, a friend of mine told me that I should look into mountain biking as a way to stay fit in the warm months so that I'd be in better shape once the ski season came around.  That made sense to me so the following year, I decided to go for it and purchased my first MTB and headed over to The WH Res.  I found a small area that had some features.  They were small bridges that went up and over trees that had fallen.  I learned what OTB stood for right away..OVER THE BARS!  

Call me crazy but I was hooked immediately.  That Winter I only skied a few times and couldn't wait to get back on that bike.  The next MTB season was awesome and before I knew it, I was looking for a Fatbike to ride in the Winter.  Sorry skiing, but I got the bug, MTBing is now all I want to do.  The WH Res has always been there for me...its hard climbs, cool rocks to roll, flat flow trails and fast downhills.  It doesn't hurt that I know it like the back of my hand so no fear of getting lost.

The trail is my life coach.  Look ahead, breathe, relax, be present, look where you want to go, picture success then DO IT!  If at first you don't succeed, just try it again...never stay down, there's always the next time.  I also have made all kinds of awesome connections on the trail...trees, streams, ponds, rock formations, wildlife, clean air, dirt, great friends, it will take you as far as your imagination will allow.  

I know that without sobriety, this experience would not be possible.  If I were still abusing alcohol I would not be in the physical, emotional or spiritual place to be able to do this and I am so thankful for the opportunity to experience this for myself and share it with friends and with others who seek to be free from the shackles of alcohol and drug abuse. 

Get out there and ride, you will be amazed!

By Bling

Read about an incredibly powerful gift shared by Highlander!

I've been Mtn biking for many years now. In fact, longer than some of my twenty-something peers have been alive. Over the last quarter century I've seen and ridden an ever evolving progression
Of technology. Through these advancements the sport itself has evolved as well. The machines we ride today can accomplish amazing feats and take relentless beatings. Through sobriety, what Mtn biking means to me has also evolved.

I've been Mtn biking much longer than I've been in recovery. When I was an active alcoholic, Mtn biking was a great outlet for my aggressions as well as my desire to be one of those " crazies" involved in an extreme sport. Adrenalin was my drug of choice during my sober hours in that period of my life. When the ride was over, it was time to drink, whether for victory or defeat didn't matter, it was just how the ride was closed. Unfortunately, many of the by-products of my disease rode with me. Most of the time, anger, fear, envy, or ego were in charge of my ride. For many years I took the wonderful gift of Mtn biking for granted, never realizing the privilege that I had. I knew nothing about gratitude in those years.
It was just before the holiday season when finally, I decided I had to change my life. It was a long cold winter that year, but with the help of my program and some amazing new friends, I started to improve my mind, body and spirit. I didn'teven realize how much stronger I was becoming, but many people in my life were noticing changes in me. I was learning the meaning of words like faith, hope, and gratitude. My whole world was changing for the better. My riding season that year was the best one I had ever known! Those by-products of my disease were no longer in charge of me, and my outlook on life and Mtn biking was changing. I was beginning to realize what an enormous gift Mtn biking is in my life and that it is medicine for the three major aspects of my disease, physical, mental, and spiritual.
      After becoming a ride leader through BTC, mtn biking gave yet even more meaning to me! Now I have the opportunity to help others with addictions as well as being a positive role model for some troubled teens. I'm able now to give back so many things that were given to me, both through biking and the program that has kept me sober.. That is an incredibly powerful gift that I'm very grateful for. When I see one of the kids overcome a challenge on a bike that they may have earlier thought was impossible, the joy for me is sometimes overwhelming! I get a huge kick out of watching these kids improve as bikers and as people! It is a gift from God to be able to have this kind of impact on a kids life, for which I am very thankful .
    I can honestly say that Mtn biking means more to me today than it ever has. Where it used to be more about the rush and thrill, it is more about learning and teaching now. I ride for more reasons than I ever have before. Now when I ride I see more beauty, smell the scent of earth, hear the songs of nature, taste the dust of my fellow riders, and most importantly feel that I belong to this amazing life! So, I have to say that what Mtn biking means to me these days is that
EVERY RIDE IS A GIFT! Don't forget to cherish it!


Yogi on What Mountain Biking Means to Me

The Climb is steep and crisscrossed with roots. The trail is littered with rocks of various sizes and some of them are loose. You could walk up it without any problem in a minute or two, but on a mountain bike it’s a very different story. I’ve ridden on this trail many times over the years and always had to push my bike up the last few yards of the pitch. It’s not for lack of trying mind you, in fact sometimes multiple tries in a day.

I’ve seen a few guys ride all the way up this particular hill and I’m thrilled when it happens. I’m genuinely proud and happy at their achievement, and I’m encouraged that it’s do-able and that perhaps someday I’ll get over the obstacle myself.

This is what mountain biking is for me. It’s about camaraderie and it’s about attempting to overcome the obstacles. It’s a blast and whether or not I succeed seems less important than my whole-hearted trying. When mountain biking in New England, the trails are jam packed with these types of challenges. As time goes by I’ve managed to ride over a good many of them. It always feels really good and it’s fun to share these little triumphs with friends.




Breaking The Cycle's first Blog! What Mountain Biking Means To Me

Welcome to the BTC Blog! We have an exciting series of topics we will cover leading up to our second season with the Teens starting May 2016, to get everyone jazzed up! We will continue during the season, giving you a chance to learn the different perspectives and stories of those involved.

I volunteered to start the first Blog post, on What Mountain Biking Means To Me!

Sometimes we all just need to get away: from people, things, thoughts, negativity, or we...just...need... space. Or we need something spicy and exciting in our daily lives. Or we need an outlet for our energy, or to do something positive RIGHT NOW!

People who know me well say to me sometimes "you'll be fine once you get on the bike". And I know it's true. Wind in my hair, pedals turning, smile on my face, I'm in a good place! It all melts away instantly, at that point I am able to see the beauty around me, despite whatever is happening in my life. It's like magic! No, it actually is magic. 

Sometimes the trick is to just keep turning the pedals. Sometimes recovery from alcohol and substance abuse is about putting one foot in front of the other, trusting in your destination when you can't see it. So you just keep turning the pedals, even when you don't think you can anymore. Before you know it, you come around a corner and realize you did it and are absolutely stunned by the natural beauty in front of you. You suddenly realize you are laughing and grinning like a small child again, like you did before you were caught in the deadly undertow that is addiction.